Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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Read about recent developments and findings in procellariiform science and conservation relevant to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels in ACAP Latest News.

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ACAP-listed Balearic Shearwaters reach German waters

Kees Roselaar and Hans van Brandwijk (Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, The Netherlands) have published in English in the Dutch Seabird Group's journal Sula on an early overlooked record of an ACAP-listed (and Critically Endangered) Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus from Heligoland, Germany.

The paper’s Dutch summary follows, edited from a translation by Google Translate:

“The Balearic Shearwater [Puffinus mauretanicus] is a rare species in Germany.  It was not recorded in the field until 1992; since then it has been regularly observed in small numbers. There were no museum specimens of this species [from Germany] until the second author discovered a Balearic Shearwater in the collection of the Zoological Museum Amsterdam (ZMA. AVES 44474).  It concerns a bird in worn juvenile plumage, collected at Helgoland on 5 December 1893.  The bird shows the usual characteristics for the species: brown upper parts, whitish belly with extensive brown on undertail coverts, side of neck, flanks and underwing coverts.  The specimen was probably obtained by fishermen at sea near Helgoland and sometime between late 1910 and the end of 1913 was donated to René baron Snouckaert of Schauburg by Hugo Weigold, staff member of de Vogelwarte Helgoland in 1910-1924.  Why would Weigold give away such a special copy?  The answer to that question is simple:  Weigold determined the bird as a Manx Shearwater [P. puffinus], then still quite a common species in German waters.  However, this incorrect determination cannot be blamed on him, because the Balearic Shearwater was only officially described by Lowe eight years later, in 1921.

 Balearic Germany

Balearic Shearwater,  Heligoland, Germany, 5 December 1893; photograph by Hans van Brandwijk

Reference:

Roselaar, K. & van Brandwijk, H. 2019.  An old record of a Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus from Germany.  Sula 27. 3 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 December 2019

Let there be light! Reducing bycatch in the Peruvian gillnet fishery

Alessandra Bielli (Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall, UK) and colleagues have published in the journal Biological Conservation on using light emitting diodes (LEDs) to reduce bycatch of marine vertebrates, including ACAP-listed Pink footed Shearwaters Ardenna creatopus (Vulnerable) and White-chinned Petrels Procellaria aequinoctialis (Vulnerable) that get caught in Peruvian gill nets.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Found in the coastal waters of all continents, gillnets are the largest component of small-scale fisheries for many countries.  Numerous studies show that these fisheries often have high bycatch rates of threatened marine species such as sea turtles, small cetaceans and seabirds, resulting in possible population declines of these non-target groups.  However, few solutions to reduce gillnet bycatch have been developed.  Recent bycatch reduction technologies (BRTs) use sensory cues to alert non-target species to the presence of fishing gear. In this study we deployed light emitting diodes (LEDs) - a visual cue - on the floatlines of paired gillnets (control vs illuminated net) during 864 fishing sets on small-scale vessels departing from three Peruvian ports between 2015 and 2018.  Bycatch probability per set for sea turtles, cetaceans and seabirds as well as catch per unit effort (CPUE) of target species were analysed for illuminated and control nets using a generalised linear mixed-effects model (GLMM).  For illuminated nets, bycatch probability per set was reduced by up to 74.4 % for sea turtles and 70.8 % for small cetaceans in comparison to non-illuminated, control nets. For seabirds, nominal BPUEs decreased by 84.0 % in the presence of LEDs.  Target species CPUE was not negatively affected by the presence of LEDs.  This study highlights the efficacy of net illumination as a multi-taxa BRT for small-scale gillnet fisheries in Peru.  These results are promising given the global ubiquity of small-scale net fisheries, the relatively low cost of LEDs and the current lack of alternate solutions to bycatch.”

 

Pink-footed Shearwater at sea, photograph from Oikonos

See also a popular report on the publication here.

With thanks to Joanna Alfaro and Jeffrey Mangel of ProDelphinus.

Reference:

Bielli, A., Alfaro-Shigueto, J., Doherty, P.D., Godley, B.J., Ortiz, C., Pasara, A., Wang, J.H., Mangel, J.C. 2019.  An illuminating idea to reduce bycatch in the Peruvian small-scale gillnet fishery.  Biological Conservation doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.108277.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 28 December 2019

Mapping bycatch risk of Wandering Albatross fledglings from Bird Island using bird-borne radar detection

This month satellite tags were attached to 20 Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans chicks (globally Vulnerable) prior to their fledging from Bird Island in the South Atlantic according to a media release by the British Antarctic Survey.  The birds have now commenced to fledge.

Wandering Albatross at sea, photograph by Kirk Zufelt

“Wandering Albatrosses at Bird Island have declined catastrophically since the 1960s due to incidental mortality (bycatch) in fisheries.  Limited vessel-based monitoring shows two areas of particular high risk for wandering albatrosses: the Patagonian Shelf and the South Atlantic subtropical frontal zone.  The risks are compounded by Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing – a large but unquantified threat in the oceans.  The identification of areas and periods when birds of different ages and sexes are most susceptible to bycatch is crucial information for stakeholders and policy makers to improve regulations, target bycatch observer programmes and monitor compliance with recommended bycatch mitigation.

The overall objective of this project is to link habitat preference, at-sea activity patterns and detections from novel bird-borne radars to quantify interactions of tracked Wandering Albatrosses with legal and IUU fishing vessels.  This will greatly improve on previous coarse-scale analyses of overlap with fishing effort to clearly identify areas and periods of highest susceptibility to bycatch for different life-history classes (age, sex, breeding status). This is an innovative project and has the potential to be a “game-changer” given the capacity for identifying IUU vessels from bird-borne radar, and the potential future extension of the approach to other species.”

Positions are updated three times a day on an online map (click here).

Read an earlier ALN post on the project here.

With thanks to Richard Phillips.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 27 December 2019

Hookpod approved for stand-alone mitigation of seabird bycatch in New Zealand

New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries has approved use of the Hookpod to deter albatross and other seabird deaths in pelagic longline fishing as a stand-alone seabird bycatch mitigation measure.

The gazetted regulation (Fisheries (Seabird Mitigation Measures - Surface Longlines) Circular 2019) comes into force on 1o January 2020.  It defines a "hook-shielding device" (such as the Hookpod) as a stand-alone mitigation option that "encases the point and barb of the hook until it reaches a depth of at least 10 m or has been immersed for at least 10 minutes" during line setting.

“The Hookpod is a UK-designed device that is proven to virtually eliminate the bycatch of albatrosses whilst not affecting the target species catch rate of the surface long line fishing industry. The revolutionary device works by covering the point and barb of the hook during line setting, only releasing the hook at a depth of 20 metres, by means of a patented pressure release system, out of the diving depth of albatrosses as well as other seabirds” (click here).

Hookpod NZ

Baited Hookpod - close up

hookpod 3

Baited Hookpod, photograph by Fabiano Peppes

The Hookpod “is reusable, fits onto longline fishing lines above the hook, staying in place throughout its lifetime.  This means it provides effective protection every single time the fishing gear is used, without extra handling or fitting by the crew.  It has been designed to fit a range of fishing gear, line and hook types.  It is [made of] recyclable polycarbonate, contains a built-in weight to help fishing gear sink to depth and will last in standard operations for around 2-3 years. The opening mechanism works by using the increasing depth/pressure to gradually compress a small spring in the central chamber, until a piston is fired to open the device and release the hook".

Read more about Hookpods here, and watch a video clip.

With thanks to Igor Debski.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 26 December 2019

New Zealand’s WAD2020 Banner gets to Campbell Island – but does not come back

Following its first deployment on Proclamation Island in the Bounty Island group by Graham Parker and Kalinka Rexer-Huber of the environmental consultancy Parker Conservation in October, New Zealand’s World Albatross Day (WAD2020) banner travelled to Campbell Island last month with Kalinka and Kevin Parker as part of ACAP’s “banner challenge”.

WAD Campbell ACAP Kevin Parker Kalinka Rexer Huber 20 Nov shrunk 

Kevin Parker (left) and Kalinka Rexer-Huber with their well-travelled WAD2020 banner "Action for Albatross Conservation!" on Campbell Island

Safely back home, Kalinka has written to ACAP Latest News: “The photo was taken on November 20th by Kevin Parker. It features Kevin at left, myself and goodly numbers of Campbell Thalassarche impavida and Grey-headed T. chrysostoma Albatrosses.  We were doing demographic and tracking work on albatrosses and Northern Giant Petrels Macronectes halli and recovering trackers (GLS) from Southern Royal Albatrosses Diomedea epomophora.  The work was part of Operation Endurance, a collaboration between our New Zealand Department of Conservation [DOC], MetService and the [Royal New Zealand] Navy that was supported by HMNZS Canterbury.

Kalinka explains: “Unfortunately this was the last sighting of the banner.  It is currently marooned on Campbell in a helicopter crate, with rescue unlikely anytime soon”.  Fortunately, Parker Conservation will make a “shiny new replacement” that will first be photographed on Adams Island in the Auckland Island group in the New Year by Kalinka and Graham Parker, and then will then travel with Paul Sagar to the Snares Islands in March.

Kevin has also been in contact over his experience heading south: "The sight of an albatross cruising the high seas always makes me think of surfing and wishing I could also ride waves with such grace, power and simplicity.  Standing next to an albatross colony is a profoundly moving experience and visiting Campbell for the first time was such a privilege.  The high latitudes get under one's skin and stay there forever."

 The expedition was not without its drama.  A DOC conservation dog searching the island for any signs of rodents (a Jack Russell/Fox Terrier cross named Flint) had to be left behind on the island after being scared by a group of subadult male Hooker’s Sea Lions Phocarctos hookeri and running away.  Despite searches it could not be found before the ship made the decision to sail for home due to impending bad weather.  The story ends well though with Flint being found on the island and rescued via helicopter a few days later.  It is now reunited with its handler (click here).

With thanks to Kalinka Rexer-Huber.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 25 December 2019

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